About This Site:
All items on this site are hand crafted by Jack Hemming.
Self taught since 1969, his work is represented in the Permanent Collection at Goldsmiths Hall, City of London, where the cream of British craftsmanship has been collected since the beginning of the Craft Guilds in the Middle-ages.
Against the commercial grain of mass production, Jack produces leather goods individually by hand, using techniques based on the mediaeval European tooling tradition. Each item is thus unique.
With decoration inscribed, coloured, and gilded using designs adapted from the peak of Celtic craftsmanship, via the scholarship of George Bain (methods of construction of Celtic art), Aidan Meehan, and others, he makes practical functional leather goods in the spirit of the Celtic tradition.
Jacks own attempts at interpreting the tradition of Celtic art feature on some of his work, though after 23 years of study of Bains book, he realizes that he cannot hope to equal the work of the "dark ages", and is content still to learn from reproducing designs from Kells, Lindisfarne, etc
Jack also binds books, repair riding tack, and makes accessories for sheep-shearing equipment in an effort to contribute to the rural Cornish economy and preserve the traditions of one of mankind's oldest traditional crafts. His proud boast is to attempt anything in leather. A recent commission was for a bag for Cornish pipes, which featured a molded leather portrait of the piper, from whose mouth the chanter issues.
Jack attempts to reproduce as closely as is practical the methods used by the Celtic scribes in their illuminations on vellum and parchment, to decorate functional items for use today. Using tooling stamps he has hand carved himself, the leather is tooled ,then coloured, before size is painted onto the areas to be gilded.
When a sheet of gold leaf is applied it sticks to the size and is blown off other areas, leaving the chosen areas illuminated. The pure gold "wasted" is better seen as the fairies portion.
The foolish pursuit of techniques developed in a more leisurely age means that some of the items on sale took up to three days of patient painstaking work, and they are subsidised by a range of goods decorated with some of the best known designs stamped into the leather with metal plates and hand finished, to bring the art to people at a more economic price.
Leather was used for many purposes in the Celtic world and had to be prepared by the long process of tanning, we know very little about the early techniques, however the very survival of some leather in wet conditions tells us that the tanning processes used by the Celts were very effective.
The last tannery in Cornwall, run by a family named Croggan, (the Cornish word for leather, kryghan) was still making leather by the age-old process of year-long immersion in pits with oak-bark chippings until commercial pressures forced its closure in 2002.
The last of the Cornish leather, in black, was bought by Jack, who will make commissions to order from it, kilt belts for Cornish tartan being the favourite so far.
The best known examples of the artistic tradition of the early Celts are in the magnificently illuminated Gospels produced by the monks at Lindisfarne, Kells, etc. Other inspirations have survived in stone carvings ,especially in Eire and Scotland, though we have some fine examples in Cornwall, such as the crosses in Cardinham churchyard, just a few miles from Jacks workshop.
The pleasing surfaces of leather were sometimes stretched over wood, as on shields, examples of shoes have also been discovered. One of the best examples of decorative book binding is of the Stonyhurst Gospels from the ninth-century deposited in St Cuthbert's coffin.
Individual book-bindings in the mediaeval style are available to commission, decorated to customers requirements. The "Spirit of Place" is encapsulated in the work of Jack Hemming, since the peace and quiet of his isolated workshop on top of Bodmin Moor are integral to the work.
Powered by the wind, and watered by pure peat-bog spring , his family home is in Temple, a tiny hamlet founded by the Knights Templar in the thirteenth century as a sanctuary for pilgrims.
Jacks home and workshop are on the site of the mediaeval Preceptory of the Templars, with traces of their spiritual engineering still apparent to the discerning mind, blending seamlessly into the spirit apparent in the Bronze age hut circles surviving on the site.
The local landscape is one of the few in southern Britain where the history of mans occupation of the land is essentially intact, climatic changes having made this "wild and wastrel moore" uninhabitable from the Bronze age to the Middle ages.
The geomancy of the area is centered on the stone-henge of the Stripple stones, visible from everywhere for miles around. Nearly intact stone rows still survive, their meaning and purpose apparent in the impenetrable fogs that descend so suddenly here, when the stones are found to be at the optimum spacing to navigate safely through lethal bogs to safe ground.
Increasingly, Jack sees the local mystic landscape as an inter-related topographical whole, and his place within it as the source and inspiration of his quest to express the unique qualities of the British Celtic soul in a manner functional in and relevant to the hectic modern world.
Jack is always happy to undertake custom work, please use the Contact Page or address below for enquires.